Dan-Way-Co Football: DWC wins wild one on road

Dansville-Wayland-Cohocton grabs thrilling 42-40 win

Sean Curran
The Evening Tribune

CLIFTON SPRINGS – The combined Dansville-Wayland-Cohocton football team got a crucial stop on a 2-point conversion in the final minutes of play in order to secure a very slim 42-40 win over Midlakes in the final week of the regular season on Thursday evening in Clifton Springs.

The game was a back-and-forth affair all evening long until the combined team finally took a two-touchdown lead in the second half. But Midlakes came storming back in the start of the fourth quarter in order to tie the game. DWC responded with a huge touchdown drive to take an 8-point lead, and then the defense stood tall when it mattered the most by getting a stop on a two-point conversion with just over two minutes left to seal the exciting win.

Midlakes running back Ryan Peck gets taken down by a trio of Dan-Way-Co tacklers on Thursday evening at Midlakes.

With the win, the DWC football team finishes the regular season with an impressive 6-2 record. And in the programs first year as a combined team, DWC will host a playoff game in the first round of the Section V Class B tournament.

“This is pretty unreal. It’s cool. We had six weeks to get these kids ready by the time we got the merger done, and this is amazing. It’s all about these kids and these coaches, and this has been pretty neat to see,” said DWC Co-Head Coach Darren Knapp.

“I just think this has been huge. It’s a testament to the kids. They are the ones out there doing it, they took the risk to join a whole new group of guys. The fact that they stuck together and worked hard – it really says a lot about this team’s character. We couldn’t be any prouder of them,” said DWC Co-Head Coach Rich Welch.

The game started fast as Dan-Way-Co got a good return on the opening kickoff. Ben Teed then took the first handoff of the night up the middle and ran untouched all the way to the endzone for a 45-yard touchdown that immediately put DWC up 6-0.

Midlakes responded immediately with a quick drive, capped off by a Ryan Peck touchdown that gave Midlakes their first lead of the game at 7-6 less than two minutes into the contest.

DWC took the ball back and worked their way down the field until it faced a tough fourth down decision around midfield. But Welch elected to go for it, and Collin Mehlenbacher made that decision look easy as he took a pitch to the right and followed his blockers all the way down the sideline for a 45-yard touchdown that put DWC up 14-7 just over halfway through the period.

Midlakes, however, once again responded with a quick drive of their own where quarterback Ricky Wright kept the option read and dashed 17-yards into the endzone to tie the game at 14-14 late in the first quarter.

“We’ve seen lots of different offenses throughout the season, but we probably haven’t seen a team run the zone read as well as (Ricky Wright) does. He definitely makes that train run well, and when we bottled him up we did okay. But when we let him do his thing, we struggled defensively. But I told the guys, we are still a good unit, we just hadn’t seen someone like this,” said Knapp. “There are some shifts that need to happen, but we will adjust for whoever we get in the first round. These guys are still a great unit that has posted two shutouts. I told them that tonight we could just chalk that up as a fluke.”

After that, both defenses finally got stops, and with the clock ticking down on the first quarter it looked like the game would be tied after 12 minutes. With just eight seconds left in the frame, Midlakes launched their first punt of the night down the field, where Mehlenbacher dropped the catch. But he quickly chased the ball down, scooped it up and broke free down the right sideline for an 85-yard touchdown return that gave DWC the 22-14 lead going into the second quarter.

DWC's Collin Mehlenbacher scoops up a punt and returns it for a touchdown during Thursday's win over Midlakes.

At the start of the second quarter, Midlakes proved that is more than just a big-play offense with a methodical drive down the field. The Screaming Eagles finally got on the board five minutes into the frame with a six yard touchdown pass from Wright to Jared Brownell, cutting the lead to 22-21.

DWC once again responded quickly, but this time the touchdown came through the air. From right in front of midfield, Nick Belanger lofted a perfect pass down the middle of the field to a wide-open Evan Pruonto, who walked into the endzone for a 44-yard strike that made the lead 28-21 at halftime. It was the fourth different person that scored a touchdown for the combined team in the half.

“It’s nice when we can have balance like that and have it just be the next man up. We will take Evan’s 200-yard performance like last week every single game if we can, but if we have to spread it out, we will do that too,” said Welch.

After the break, DWC got the first score on the board thanks once again to Mehlenbacher. The senior scored his third touchdown of the evening with a pitch towards the right sideline, where he broke a few tackles and somehow tiptoed his way around the sideline in order to stay in bounds for a 27-yard touchdown that pushed the lead out to 34-21 late in the third quarter.

That lead held into the early stages of the fourth quarter where it started to look as the DWC might finally be pulling away. But just when it appeared that way, Midlakes came storming back into the contest.

The Screaming Eagles first got on the board early in the fourth when Wright once again tossed a touchdown pass to Brownell in the back of the endzone on fourth down in order to cut the lead down to 34-28. The ensuing kickoff was bobbled by DWC, and the Screaming Eagles immediately jumped on it to snatch away the full momentum. Midlakes scored on the very next play when Wright tossed a beautiful strike to Hunter Black that tied the game with just over 10 minutes left to play.

Dansville-Wayland-Cohocton receiver Andrew Morrow jumps to the peak of the ball in an attempt to make a catch on Thursday evening at Midlakes.

But instead of panicking, the DWC offense simply went right back to work and methodically moved the ball down the field. DWC chewed up a bit of clock until Ben Teed, who made huge plays on both sides of the ball, finished off what turned out to be the game-winning drive with a six-yard touchdown run that put DWC back on top 42-40.

“Ben is a grinder. He’s the kind of kid that you ask to pick up four yards a pop and it’s almost never pretty. He’s just willing to do the work and he never complains. He just pops back up with a smile. He’s a great kid and a great football player. It’s been a lot of fun to watch him because I’m new to him this year, so I’ve really grown to appreciate him. He’s been doing a great job,” said Welch.

“Ben is a three-year starter for us offensively and defensively. Offensively, he is the prototype fullback for (Coach Welch’s) offense. He can grind the three yards in a cloud of dust, and defensively going guard to guard he is really good. He plays with a lot of heart and he’s our kind of guy. He’s a huge asset to have and he was important all night,” said Knapp.

But Midlakes was not done, as they drove right back down the field and got into the endzone with a touchdown run from Peck, cutting the lead to 42-40. Peck got the handoff on the 2-point conversion attempt, but the DWC defense made a huge stop and tackled him in the backfield to preserve the 42-40 win on the road.

DWC currently sits at the No. 4 overall seed in Class B, and will most likely play Wilson during the program’s first ever playoff game next Friday evening.